Caring for pet rabbits

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DIY and how-to

A pet rabbit isn’t like a cat or dog. Pet cats and dogs are likely to take an immediate liking to you. This will also happen with a pet rabbit, but it will take much longer. Your pet dog or cat can be fed on a variety of things. This is not the case with pet rabbits, as they have very sensitive gastrointestinal tracts.

Rabbits are very affectionate but can get really aggressive and destructive at times. Treating the rabbit gently is very important.

Before buying a pet rabbit, consider whether you already have a pet that could threaten the rabbit (a dog or a cat). Also consider what it will cost to take care of the rabbit (cage, food, the occasional veterinarian expense) and whether you have the time to take proper care of the rabbit.

A cage to sleep in – Your rabbit will need a cage to sleep and eat in. You should buy one that allows the rabbit to stand up fully stretched on its hind legs without any obstruction. Make sure there is extra space to accommodate a litter box, including space for the feed and water. The cage must be easy to clean and indestructible. A metal cage with a wire mesh floor is the most preferable choice.

Place the cage in a well-ventilated area with a free flow of fresh air. Place the cage as close to the ground as possible. Place bedding made of straw in the cage so the rabbit feels comfortable. Remember that the cage is not a place to confine your rabbit. It is more of a place where the rabbit will retire for the night or whenever it is tired or hungry. As far as possible, do not keep the cage door shut. Always leave it open.

Rabbits love jumping and running around. This helps keep their bodies in shape, keep their minds active and alert, and help eliminate a lot of sickness that will be present if they are confined to the cage.

Feeding your rabbit – The entire health and well-being of the rabbit will depend on feeding them correctly. Pet rabbits usually live 7 to 8 years, but keeping your pet on the proper feed should ensure it lives 10 to 12 years. Pet rabbits have been known to live up to 15 years, given the proper care.

Your pet rabbit’s diet should consist primarily of hay. Always ensure that the hay you feed your rabbit is dry and fresh. The hay should never be damp and dull. Do not worry about the rabbit spoiling its teeth with the constant chewing and munching of this hay. Rabbit teeth grow constantly, eliminating the possibility of teeth destruction.

Your pet should also get its fair share of greens. Along with hay, greens are a vital part of the rabbit’s diet because they will provide all the nutrients that hay provides, but in addition fresh greens will provide the rabbit with water. Good options of fresh greens are broccoli, cabbage, celery, and most of the greens that are dark in colour. Occasionally feed your rabbit fruits such as pineapple, pear, peach, papaya and any of the sweet berries. Special treats could include edible flowers, such as roses and lilies.

As far as possible, stay away from commercially available rabbit food. These foods are usually packed with starch and fat. They are made to the rabbit’s taste, so the rabbit enjoys eating it. What will result is a rabbit that grows plump very fast. Healthy rabbits are those that have a strong muscular tone with minimal fat. A proper diet with enough exercise ensures this. The proper diet will not only ensure that your rabbit is in the peak of health but also reduce your veterinary bills.

Lifting your pet rabbit – Rabbits have very fragile backbones. Never pick up your rabbit so that its hind legs are left dangling. The rabbit might kick violently, possibly fracturing its backbone. Never lift the rabbit by its ears. It is very painful for the rabbit, just like it would pain you if someone tried to lift you by the ears.

The best way to lift your rabbit is to put one hand below its hind legs for support and the other below its chest and then lift it. The entire weight of the rabbit must be supported by your hands. As far as possible, prevent small children from picking up the rabbit. They tend to get a bit excited and might cause unintentional harm to the very rabbit they want to care for.

When to visit the vet – If you feed your rabbit with the correct diet and allow it to exercise enough, the vet is someone you may never have to visit. Always watch out for abnormal behaviour in your rabbit. If you notice something different, it may be time to take your pet to the veterinarian. This may include a sudden loss in appetite, sudden weight loss, wanting to be confined to the cage, or extremely aggressive behaviour. If you notice that your rabbit has diarrhoea (not very common in rabbits), do not wait. Your pet requires medical attention immediately.

In summary

  • Buy your pet rabbit from a reputable shop like Stodels Fish and Pet Centres.
  • Always keep the cage open and place it where there is a good flow of fresh air.
  • Always keep the cage clean, with sufficient fresh food and water.
  • Be very careful while lifting and handling your rabbit.
  • Take your pet rabbit to the vet as soon as you notice the slightest change in its behaviour.